Meghalaya – Culture and Traditions

It is a unique and small state in the north-eastern part of India  ,  it is heaven on earth. It means  “abode of clouds” in Sanskrit  and has become one of the famous tourist destinations in India  . The state has many attractions with vibrant culture, exquisite natural beauty, tradition and tranquility, which attract lakhs of tourists.

It is bordered  by Assam to the north and the  capital of  Bangladesh and Shillong  to the south  .  Shillong is nicknamed ” Scotland of the East “. It is one of the seven sister states of Northeast India  .

The climate of Meghalaya  is subtropical (between hot and cold) and humid. With an annual rainfall of 1200 cm, the state is  called the “wettest” state in the country  . Cherrapunji, south of the capital Shillong,  holds the world record for highest rainfall in a calendar month. Mawsinram village near this city   has the highest annual rainfall record.

About one-third of the state is forested and the major peaks of the state  are the Garo, Khasi  and Jaintia hills, with valleys and highland plateaus and is geologically rich. The forests of Meghalaya  are considered to be one of the richest botanical habitats in Asia.

Nature has blessed her with abundant rainfall, sunshine, virgin forests, high plateaus, tumbling waterfalls, crystal clear rivers, flowing streams and above all, strong, intelligent and hospitable people. Intriguing limestone caves, mysterious living native bridges, sacred groves, majestic waterfalls on misty hills, Meghalaya is the stuff travel dreams are made of.


 The early history of  Meghalaya is unknown, the Khasi, Jaintia, Bhoi, Yudh, collectively   known as  Hynniewtrep people living mainly in the eastern districts of Meghalaya , are considered to  be one of the earliest ethnic groups to settle in the Indian subcontinent. , belonging to the Proto Austroloid Monkhamer lineage. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was ruled by the Khasi, Garo and Jaintia tribes.

In the 19th century, these states  came under British rule and  were incorporated into Assam in 1835 . Due to the treaty relationship between the states and the British, the region enjoyed semi-independent status for many years.

 When Lord Curzon partitioned  Bengal on 16 October 1905,  Meghalaya   became a part of the new province of ‘East Bengal and Assam’ . However, when the partition was reversed in 1912,  Meghalaya   became a part of Assam .

After independence in 1947,  Meghalaya  was given autonomous status within Assam. However, the people of Meghalaya were not satisfied with this arrangement and started a peaceful and constitutional struggle for more independence. The state of Meghalaya was granted the status of an autonomous state under the Assam Reorganization (Meghalaya) Act of 1969.

The North-Eastern Region (Reorganization) Act, 1971 was passed in the Parliament House, which granted the status of a fully autonomous state to the state of Meghalaya. Meghalaya attained full statehood on 21 January 1972.

 Two districts of the state of  Assam : the United Khasi Hills  and  the Jayantiya Hills  and  Garo Hills were  formed as Meghalaya . The Garo people live in western Meghalaya, the Khasi  in central Meghalaya   and the Jainti  in  eastern Meghalaya. These seven administrative districts are now divided into Jayantia Hills, East Gam Hills, West Garo Hills, East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Ri Bhoi District and South Garo Hills District.

The culture of Meghalaya

 The main ethnic communities in  Meghalaya include Khasi , Garo  and  Jaintia. It is believed that the people of this community came to Meghalaya from South East Asia. People of Meghalaya are known for their cheerful nature and friendliness.

Each community has its own customs and cultural traditions such as Khasi (of Son-Khmer origin), Garo (of Tibeto-Burman origin) and Jaintia are from South East Asia. A common feature binding all the three communities is their matrilineal system in which family lineage is derived from the mother’s side.

Many people from the Khasi, Jaintia  and  Garo  communities have  converted to Christianity  so we can easily see many churches, temples, mosques, gurdwaras and monasteries in Meghalaya.

The region is rich in tribal culture and folk traditions. Dancing and drinking along with the sounds of buffalo horns, flutes and mridangas are integral parts of social ceremonies and religious ceremonies. Marriage relations are outside their clan.


English  is the most spoken and official language of the state. Other major languages ​​in the state include  Khasi  and  Garo. Many other languages ​​are also spoken in Meghalaya. For example, Panar, Tiwa, Baite, Nepali languages ​​are spoken in almost all parts of Meghalaya state.

Most people in the city  use English  language and people in rural areas use different languages.


There are three main tribes in Meghalaya namely Khasi, Jaintia  and  Garo  and the traditional dress of each tribe is unique. The skirt worn by women  is called gimpian  which is either cotton or endi type with an apron (kirshah) hanging from the left shoulder and the leg turned down. 

In outdoor use, the jainsem is worn slung over both shoulders and looped below the knee. Jainsem  is a variation of the Indian sari, which covers the entire body and can be made of cotton or silk.

A headcover is a  tapamoh  whose upper end covers the head and the two ends are tied behind the neck and from the neck it turns under the covering of the upper body.

 A mantle is drawn over the shoulders, its two ends fastened on the chest. It covers the lower end of the  tapmoh and hangs  below  the kirshah  which is a loose type of shirting. Attire varies from place to place.

Adding to Jainsem’s  beauty  are beaded jewellery,  which is currently a rage among urban women who often pair it with their outfits – both western and ethnic.

Men in Meghalaya  usually  wear dhoti  type clothes which are mostly unstitched and they wear a headgear or turban along with the jacket. The men’s dress is a sleeveless coat worn until the end of the last century, with a fringe of thick textured cotton cloth below. A cotton girdle was worn below the waist. Over the sleeveless coat  Jimfong,  a mantle hung.

Jimfong  is traditionally worn but limited to festivals, you  don’t see men playing Jimfong in everyday life. Later, a dhoti was worn in place of the waist.

 Triangular cars and wooden headgear were worn. Common men mostly wear cotton clothes while Symes and other dignitaries prefer silk patterns. Jeans and jackets are common in everyday wear.

Cuisine of Meghalaya

The staple food of its inhabitants is  rice,  dried  fish  and  mee , making  it a “  non- vegetarian  ” paradise. These hunters are very fond of them, meat being their delicacy. They eat wild animals such as deer, bison, wild boar, fish, shrimp, crabs, eels and dried fish.

 They keep domestic animals like goats, pigs, birds and ducks just to feast on them. They eat cooked, dried and smoked meat and fish. 

Beef is popular in Meghalaya, you will find shops selling red meat in every corner of Shillong city. Arum plant and bamboo shoots are everyday items prepared in curries in the family menu. There are a variety of edible mushrooms and tuberous roots.

There are many types of food available, the most common being the traditional  Garo  food. Traditional Garo food includes boiled rice, pork, beef, chicken and dried fish.

 Some of the delicacies of Garo food are  Nakam Bichi  (dried fish made with chillies and soda),  Vak Pura  (rice made with minced pork).

Kyat  is a local drink made from rice and beer and alcohol that is on their daily menu. They   produce rice beer , where the rice is first boiled and sprinkled with some yeast.

 The preparation is placed in a pot, the mouth of which is covered with a neatly rolled banana leaf. The pot is kept as it is for a few weeks until ready. Bears are also prepared from glutinous millet and tapioca. 

Wanti  is a specially brewed beer made from fermented rice and sprinkled with special herbs.

Fairs and Festivals

 ‘  Pambalang-Nongkrem  ‘ is a special religious festival in Meghalaya . which is celebrated for five days. It is also called ‘Nongkrem  ‘.  This festival is celebrated in a village called  ‘Smit’ , 11 km from Shillong  . Shad Suk Minsim  is an important festival.

This festival is celebrated every year in the second week of April in  Shillong. ‘  Bisinikalam Jaintia  ‘ is an important festival for tribals. It is celebrated in the month of July in Jowai town of Jaintia Hills. The Garo tribe celebrates a festival called ‘Vangala’  in October-November in honor of the deity called Saljong (Sun God)  . This festival is celebrated for about a week.

Garo:  The cultural heritage of the Garo tribe is buried in the festival itself. They usually celebrate festivals dedicated to culture, religious events and seasons. Garo community festivals include Dena Bilsia, Wangala, Rongchu Gala, Miamua, Mangona, Grengdikba, Jamang Siya, Ja Megapa, Sa Sat Ra Chaka, Azore Ahora, Dore Rata Dance, Chambil Mesra, Do Kra Sua, Saram Cha and A Se Mania. is etc.

Khasi:  Dance is a major part of Khasi life and also a part of its rituals. The dance is performed in Shnog (village), Red (group of villages) and Hima (group of villages). Major festivals of the state include Ka Shad Suk Myanism, Kapom-Blang Nongkrem, Ka-Shad Shingwing-Thangyop, Ka-Shad-Kyenjo Khaskan, Ka Bam Khana Shanog, Umsong Kharai, Shad Beh Sier.

Jaintia:  Jaintia hill festivals are similar to other tribal festivals. People here celebrate nature, balance and unity. Jaintia community festivals include Behrin Khalan, Laho dance, Parni ritual.

Baite :  Many festivals are celebrated in Baite society on various occasions. But they do not celebrate many of the festivals that were celebrated in ancient times today. Every year in January, a festival called Nalding Kut is celebrated, in which the people of this community dance, enjoy music and play traditional games. Puja is also performed in the temple.

Hajong :  People of Hajong community follow Hindu practices. Every Hajong family has a temple called Deoghar and they pray every morning and evening. The Hajong live in groups and the area of ​​the group is called “para or village”. Hajong Village is no less than an empire. All Hajong family members living in the village have to join the village. Hajong men wear Vizhgamsa and women wear Ranga Pathin and Phula Argo. People of the Hajong community also perform folk dances.

Spirituality:  Mawjiambin Cave is located in South Meghalaya. Here the huge pillar of nature has been given the shape of Shivalinga. According to legend, this Shivlinga has been in the precincts of Rani Singha on Jaintia Hill since the 13th century. Thousands of devotees come here every year on Shivratri.

Meghalaya – Culture and Traditions

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